It was and continues to be a place that is nothing short of amazing. Yet many people drive by it every day on East Broad Street and do not even note that it is there. Perhaps that says something not only about the building but also about the reason it is there.

It was and continues to be a place that is nothing short of amazing. Yet many people drive by it every day on East Broad Street and do not even note that it is there. Perhaps that says something not only about the building but also about the reason it is there.

Across the street from Franklin Park on the north side of Broad Street stands a massive Victorian brick structure that today holds a variety of diverse offices. It is a good example of a great old building saved for new uses in a new era.

But we almost lost it.

Many years ago, in the early 1980s, I was between jobs and looking for something to do. I made the acquaintance of some people who were trying very hard to save this great old building. I joined them and for a time tried various strategies to give the place a new life. We did not succeed but I still like to think our efforts bought the place a little time.

In the end, the building did get saved largely through the efforts of local architect Curt Moody, who made the building the home of his successful firm. Moody Nolan later moved on to a new home but the building continues to be occupied and busy.

I remember walking the empty halls of this place and wondering, "Were these people happy here?"

For the residents of the Columbus Home for the Aged, yes, they were.

The question I never asked back when I was a lot younger was, "Why was this place even here at all?"

And that is the story that is worth retelling, especially as more and more of us are getting older and older.

On Dec. 30, 1886, a formal ball was held at the Princess Rink on West Spring Street to support an institution for the "care, support and maintenance of old people."

The ball, the first of its kind as a distinctly focused charity ball in Columbus, collected more than $1,400. This may not sound like much today, but in 1886 that was a lot of money.

The ball had been organized by Maria Monypeny. As a result, the Columbus Home for the Aged was organized Jan. 10, 1887. Monypeny would remain the president of its board for many years.

The story of the next few years is one of organizing and fundraising. It included a "French Market" for the benefit of the new home in December 1887.

A later account described it as being "one of the most interesting social events in the history of the city ... On the evenings of Dec. 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, musical and dramatic entertainments were given in which the most accomplished amateurs of the city took part and which were acknowledged on all sides to have been extremely well-rendered. The bazaar was very skillfully arranged and presented a great variety of original and curious attractions."

The net proceeds brought the savings of the new group to almost $7,000.

But why were they doing all of this at all? Because the need was there.

In the years after the Civil War, government -- state and national -- recognized that many of the thousands of disabled veterans and the children of deceased veterans would need care. Institutions like the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors home and the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home were created to meet some of those needs.

But where were the widows to stay as they grew older and older? Some stayed with family and friends. But others, widows with dignity and standing, had no place to go. The home was created for them. In time, men would join the ladies as well at the home.

Not incidentally at the urgings of his Maria Mony-peny, his wife, William Mony-peny donated some land across from Franklin Park for a permanent home for the new organization.

Entering the building in its later years, the first thing one encountered was a bust of Mr. Monypeny on a pedestal at eye level. It certainly captured one's attention.

On June 26, 1888, the cornerstone was laid for a new and permanent home for the Columbus Home for the Aged, and in 1889 the main building of 21 rooms was completed and occupied.

The dedication ceremonies were followed by a "lawn-fete" at the temporary site of the home in a residence a few hundred yards to the west of Franklin Park. For the next several years, a "Harvest Home" was held to raise money.

The Columbus Home for the Aged expanded in size and scope in the next several decades including the widest variety of people among its residents. But in the end it could not compete with newer facilities. It closed in the mid-1970s and was endangered for a number of years until its rescue and revitalization.

The Columbus Home for the Aged is a classic example of how an important piece of the past of our city can and should be saved for generations yet to come.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.